The Rockets are coming off a relatively down season, finishing 7-6. In Candle's first two seasons, Toledo combined win total was 20. Kentucky has steadily improved under coach Mark Stoops, culminating in a 10 win season in 2018. That was their first double digit win season since 1977 and only their third ever.
To say the Wildcat football faithful are quite giddy would be an understatement.
This should be a fairly close contest between one of the better Group of Five programs going against Power Five team that is on the upswing.
- When: Saturday, August 31st, Noon
- Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Kentucky
- Watch: SEC Network
- Listen: Rocket Radio Network
- Line: Kentucky -11 per Vegasinsider.com
When the Wildcats have the ball
Kentucky relied on running back Bennie Snell Jr. last season. The Central Ohio native ran for nearly 1500 yards. Starting QB Terry Wilson was the team’s second leading rusher, and most expect him to take on a larger roll. This is both an exciting and frightening prospect for Kentucky fans, because he is a talent, but has also show the ability to turn the ball over.
The Toledo defense was a disruptive force last season... when they could be consistent enough to not get pushed around. If Snell Jr. were still on the field, I would chalk this game up as a Rockets loss. However, with the Wildcats relying more on Wilson, this could play into Toledo's strength. They can load the box and try and get pressure, hopefully forcing turnovers. If he hits his deep throws, it could be a long day for the Rockets.
When the Rockets have the ball
Toledo returns leading rusher Bryant Koback from last season, who originally signed with Kentucky, only to transfer to the Rockets. They also return Mitchell Guadagni, a gunslinging, running QB that had some injury problems last season. They recently lost center Bryce Harris for the season, causing some line concerns. However, the bigger concern is receiving.
On the Kentucky side, they lost their top six defensive backs and absolute monster linebacker Josh Allen. They have stellar line returning and nose tackle Quinton Bohanna will cause problems, especially with the loss of Harris.
The Rockets offense will not be able to push around this Kentucky front, but they are capable of moving the football with little dinks and dunks. Draws could be especially dangerous when Koback is in the backfield, because there is a good probability that the defensive backs will be out of position. Also look for Reggie Gilliam to have a breakout game catching the football.
I think this might be one of the most entertaining games of the entire season.
Kentucky is an 11-point favorite, but lost two all-time great type of players. Toledo lost an all-time great receiving corps. However, there is plenty enough talent on both sides of the ball to make for a close game between two good teams. Kentucky should again compete for a bowl game, while Toledo should be right in the thick of things in the MAC West.
Normally in a game like this, I would give Kentucky an edge because they are at home. This contest is a bit different, because there are a variety of match-ups that could easily end up in Toledo’s favor, and I am going to be a homer and say the Rockets squeak out a 31-27 win on a last second play.